Padmavyuha (2020)

Raj Krishna is a fantastic director, one who has promise to bring audiences entertainment with substance. While I’m never a big fan of films about religion and affirming religion, it’s a good change of pace to see a film like “Padmavyuha” that explore the complex and unique dimensions of Hinduism and how a man struggles with his core beliefs and his all encompassing faith.

A mysterious phone call from an unseen individual (voiced by Jaaved Jaaferi) draws religious studies professor Shaki Ramdas into a dark labyrinth of mystic Hindu puzzles, the answers to which will reveal a nefarious global conspiracy – as well as shake the very foundations of the world’s oldest religion.

Even at barely forty minutes in length, “Padmavyuha” is a meticulously crafted and original drama thriller that garners some immense performances. In particular, there’s Nikhil Prakash who manages to keep the film afloat most of the time with his intense, memorable performance as someone who undergoes a pretty startling transformation that’s subtle but noticeable, especially in the final scene. While some of the religious overtones and measured pacing might not be for everyone, “Padmavyuha” excels thanks to its unusual concept.

Director/Screenwriter Krishna plays a lot with color and light (complimented by Benjamin Casias’ ace cinematography), using it as a means of conveying Ramdas’ slow but fascinating transformation, and how he ultimately conquers his battle with his faith and lack thereof. If anything, “Padmavyuha” could stand to add twenty more minutes to the narrative as a means of filling in audience members not at all versed in Hinduism and its tenets. Those story elements sometimes made it tough to catch on to the symbolism and metaphor in rare occasions. That said, “Padmavyuha” is a stellar indie short that embraces Hinduism and uses it as a means of building on an engaging, suspenseful character piece.